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Military Counseling Services: Understanding Your Rights to Privacy


Whether you're adjusting to a return home after a difficult deployment or need help with a family crisis, as a service member you have access to professional counselors and therapists who can help you through a difficult time. However, service members and their families may be afraid to seek counseling for fear that it will negatively impact the military career of the service member. The following information will help you understand your privacy rights.

Privacy and confidentiality for service members and their families

For service members or their families seeking counseling through military support channels, those services are confidential. The only exceptions to confidentiality are for mandatory state, federal and military reporting requirements (for example, domestic violence, suspected child abuse or neglect, and duty to warn situations). Even then, only those who need to be notified will be informed.

Whether through a military or civilian support service, your counselor should explain the limits of confidentiality. If he or she doesn't, be sure to ask. That said, all counselors - military or civilian - work to safeguard client confidentiality within the confines of safety and security-threat disclosure.

  • Family member privacy -  A family member may seek counseling without the knowledge or consent of the service member.
  • Service members on flight status or in the Personnel Reliability Program are subject to more stringent reporting requirements. When these service members seek help from a counselor or therapist, they are obliged to notify the appropriate person in their chain of command.
  • Service members with high security clearances - Like service members on flight status or in the PRP, service members with high security clearances are subject to more stringent reporting requirements. However, new rules allow service members to not report counseling if it is for marital, family, grief or deployment adjustment issues unless related to violence or unless the counseling was ordered by a court.
  • Privacy and insurance companies -  Insurance companies, including TRICARE, have the right to audit your records and receive reports from the counselor or therapist in order to control the frequency and number of services. Some people choose to pay a therapist out of pocket to avoid giving insurance companies access to their files. Before doing this, make sure you understand the costs and any reporting requirements.

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